Bedford, John of Lancaster, duke of

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Bedford, John of Lancaster, duke of (1389–1435). The third son of King Henry IV, John was created duke of Bedford by his brother Henry V in 1414. Throughout his life he identified himself with his brother's policies, especially in pursuing English claims to the French throne. He was lieutenant of the kingdom during Henry's absences in France. He also proved himself an able soldier, commanding the ships which defeated the French fleet at the mouth of the Seine before relieving Harfleur in August 1416. After Henry's death in August 1422 he was appointed regent of France. In alliance with John, duke of Brittany, and Philip, duke of Burgundy, whose sister Anne he married in June 1423, Bedford prosecuted the war in France, at first with considerable success. But his position in France was made difficult by both lack of funds and the uneasy state of England induced partly by the actions of his brother Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, who was acting as lord protector to the infant Henry VI. After the failure of the siege of Orléans in 1429 Bedford resigned the regency in favour of Philip of Burgundy but retained the government of Normandy, where he continued to pursue English policy, securing the coronation of the young Henry VI in Paris in December 1431. The death of Duchess Anne and Bedford's marriage to Jacqueline, daughter of the comte de Saint-Pol, in 1433 destroyed friendly relations between England and Burgundy and seriously undermined the English position in France. Bedford died at Rouen in September 1435, his policies in ruins, after the failure of peace negotiations at the Congress of Arras, which had seen Duke Philip finally desert the English cause and make his peace with France. Bedford, though pursuing the English cause, was universally respected. Some years after his death King Louis XI of France, on being counselled to deface his tomb, is said to have replied, ‘let his body rest in quiet; which when he was living, would have disquieted the proudest of us all; and as for the tomb, which, I assure you, is not so worthy as his acts deserve, I account it an honour to have him remain in my dominions.’

Lynda Rollason

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John of Lancaster duke of Bedford

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